St. Martin de Porres Marianist School is investigating the incident and headmaster James Conway has been placed on a leave of absence.
A White headmaster of a Catholic school in New York punished an 11-year-old boy by forcing him to apologize to his teacher by kneeling down. He then explained that the punishment was a very "African way.” When the boy's mother, Trisha Paul, heard what had happened in school, she was reasonably distressed. Trayson studies at the St. Martin de Porres Marianist School, and his mother confronted the headmaster, John Holian, a few days later over a call. He admitted to punishing her son that way and said that he was inspired by a Nigerian father who did the same to his son.
“When he finished telling this story, I was just on the phone baffled,” Paul, who is Haitian-American, told The Washington Post. “My child is not Nigerian. We don’t share the same cultures or beliefs. You’re assuming that because my child is Black that he must kneel down as well.” The school has been investigating the incident, and Holian has been placed on a leave of absence. The school's acting headmaster, James Conway, sent an email to parents last week informing them about the incident. “I want to assure you that St. Martin’s neither condones nor accepts the actions of our headmaster,” the email read. “The incident does not reflect our long, established values or the established protocols regarding student-related issues.”
Paul said her sixth-grader son is still disturbed by the humiliating incident. “My son was humiliated, hurt, embarrassed, sad, and confused,” Paul told New York Daily News. “He reads about things happening because of your skin color. To experience it... he’s just trying to process it in his 11-year-old brain.” The family is also suspicious that Trayson was treated more harshly than others because of his race. “Once he started mentioning this African family, that’s when it just clicked,” said Paul. “Like, this is not normal procedure. I felt there was no relevance at all. Is he generalizing that everyone who is Black is African? That’s when I realized something is not right with this situation.”
What got Trayson in trouble was that in English class, he had finished reading his assignment ahead of time and took out another assignment to get a headstart. His English teacher was not pleased with this and after scolding him for doing the wrong assignment and tearing out the paper, he took him to the headmaster's office. The same was narrated by Trayson to his mom, who still wanted to give the school the benefit of doubt. Her phone call to the school left her with the impression that the headmaster thought the punishment was appropriate because Trayson is Black.
Parents hope that their kids are in a safe school environment where they get to learn and grow as people. This Catholic school costs $15,000-a-year and Paul enrolled him there, after doing her research. “I placed him where I thought he was in a safe, a warm, and loving environment where I thought he would learn,” she said. But this incident left Paul aghast. In another in-person meeting with the principal, he told her, “It was a situation where your son was really disrespectful and rude to a teacher in front of the other students,” Holian told Paul. “The whole idea is for your son to see he can’t speak to women that way.”
He just broke that little man, put him into submission. Very foul.— Virgo King - Reparations, Cut the check!!!! (@haile_theking) March 21, 2021
The school had never communicated any concern about her son’s behavior or his treatment of female teachers. He was described mostly as “a well-mannered, honor roll student.” Holian maintained that the punishment he meted out was appropriate since he wanted to reinforce the gravity of the situation. “I have six kids, and four are boys. And if one of them is really acting rude and arrogant... I will say at times, ‘get on your knees and apologize,’” Holian explained to Paul. “I was speaking to your son as I would my own son.” He added, “I’m sorry if you’re upset. It wasn’t a thought-out situation.”
Paul said that Holian’s apology was too little too late and had already done the damage with Trayson. “He’s going to therapy. He’s been very reserved and humiliated," she said. Paul also hired a lawyer and said the investigation was going in the right direction.
Cover Image Source: Facebook/Andrew Ehinger